HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- David Perron finally shed the red no-contact jersey.
The St. Louis Blues forward was skating Friday and blended in with teammates as if he hasn't missed a beat.
Perron, who has not played since he suffered a concussion on a hit by San Jose's Joe Thornton Nov. 4, 2010, was given clearance to be a regular participant in practice, thus engaging in full contact.
Perron, 23, missed the final 72 games last season and has sat out the first 18 this season. Although there is no timetable for a return to the lineup, taking another step means he's that much closer to gaining entry into the lineup for a hot Blues team, which is 4-0-1 since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach.
"I feel good. I feel that it was time to take that step," Perron said Friday. "It's just another step, obviously. I'm just going to keep moving forward, which I've been doing. There's still more steps to go, obviously. It's kind of like getting my conditioning up with the guys and being just a player instead of being the guy you can't do anything with.
"I'm a long ways from where I was when I started skating. There's still a ways to go, but we move forward."
Perron got clearance by a concussion specialist in late September to begin light drills. He began skating regularly with his teammates almost a month later and has taken himself to this point without any setbacks. But until now, he had not been cleared for any contact.
"There's no restrictions on him," Hitchcock said of Perron. "He's good to go to practice with the team. He's to be treated at practice as a normal player, but not cleared for games.
"It's the next step, and then, obviously, the final step is cleared to play. But we're not there yet, though."
When asked if he had any idea when Perron would return to the lineup, Hitchcock said: "I don't know. It's just the next step. You can't tell. Now your evaluation is in conditioning, how he feels after the ice sessions. He's been cleared to be a full participant at practice, which is nice news for him, nice news for the team."
The fact he hasn't had any setbacks since resuming skating could mean it won't be too long before he's back in the Blues' lineup.
"Even in the practices with my red jersey, I was kind of getting in there," Perron said. "Obviously guys were being cautious and being smart when I was around. ... If you notice in practice, there's not much contact, anyway. We'll see how that goes. In talking with the coaches, I'll get into some extra drills after practices to get it tested and get my conditioning level up and keep on feeling good basically.
"It's day to day. ... I feel pretty good out there. Get some bumps and see how I react to that. We'll keep moving."
Perron had five goals and seven points in 10 games last season, and in 235 NHL games, he has 53 goals and 131 points.
As a key offensive player when healthy, Hitchcock said there will be no easing him into the lineup.
"To me, it's not so much working him in," Hitchcock said. "It's like any other player coming back from injury. When you're cleared, you're cleared and you just play.
"We're not there yet. We're not cleared to play yet. If a player's cleared to play, then you evaluate later on as to how much you play him. I find that in this League, easing into things ... the only restrictions you have when you do start to play is how many minutes you play based on your energy. You can't worry about the other stuff. You've just got to play."